How It Feels to Be Plagiarized

Plagiarism stars

If you haven’t heard about the latest blogging plagiarism scandal, suffice to say that one reviewer plagiarized from over fifteen bloggers, posting the reviews to her personal book blog and Goodreads account. The reviews on her blog have been deleted but many remain on Goodreads, some “reworked” since she was confronted but still clearly plagiarized. If you want more information, it’s readily available, but my main point is not to continue shaming the plagiarizer–as tempting as that is. Instead I want to talk about how it feels to be the one whose work has been plagiarized, something I thought would never happen to me.

If we don’t all know that plagiarizing is wrong, we should. And frankly, many plagiarizers in the blogosphere exhibit behavior that indicates they do know it’s wrong; they attempt to hide their tracks by “mixing” reviews from multiple sources, delete the evidence when confronted, issue apologies saying they knew and did it anyway. Despite the many reasons plagiarizers give, I still really have no idea what drives them to copy other bloggers’ work. The payoff is little. Any pressure to post certain types of reviews or a specific number of reviews per week is all in their minds. Any prestige they gain as a blogger is lost instantly when their plagiarism is discovered. So if knowing plagiarism is wrong and knowing doing it has practically no benefit doesn’t stop people, I hope posts like this, where victims of plagiarism say how terrifying and awful and angering it is to have their intellectual work stolen, will make someone stop before they plagiarize.

My first reaction to the whole ordeal was a sinking feeling of dread and suspicion. A lot of the evidence had been deleted before I was aware of the plagiarism, but I did a little digging and was able to find the plagiarizer had recently reviewed a book I had–a book that has only about 30 reviews on Goodreads. The chances she had stolen mine seemed high, and I was scared. I have never been plagiarized before. I had no idea what to think or what to do if my suspicions were founded. I almost didn’t want to look, but I did and quickly realized I had been right to be suspicious.

Cue feelings of horror, disbelief, and a bit of hilarity. Am I even “popular” enough as a blogger to plagiarize? Is this particular review even good enough to be worth stealing? Is this some twisted sort of honor? Any impulse to laugh died when I started reading the plagiarized review, though, because it’s just weird to see your words twisted and posted as someone else’s. The plagiarizer had taken my review, my thoughts and opinions, and attempted to make them hers by adding phrases like “these characteristics remind me of my little sister.” MY OPINIONS OF THE PROTAGONIST REMIND HER OF HER LITTLE SISTER??? The more I read, the more twisted it seemed and the sicker I felt.

When I finished, I tried to do all the rational things. I had someone else read the review to see if they saw the blatant copying that I did. I tried reading all the Twitter threads to see how the other bloggers who have been plagiarized had reacted. I tried to find a way to contact the plagiarizer politely–and initially ran into a wall. The worst thing after finding my words had been stolen was finding that I might never be able to confront the plagiarizer because her Goodreads profile had been made private, her blog reviews deleted, and her Twitter account closed. I wanted to know why I was plagiarized. And it looked as if I’d never have the chance.

I eventually did find an email address on the plagiarizer’s blog. I have emailed her and am waiting for a response. However, I have since learned more about the situation and have seen the responses she sent to other victims–and I think I will never be satisfied. She explained to them she felt she needed to post reviews on a schedule and felt she needed her reviews to be longer. But this doesn’t make sense to me, and it doesn’t seem enough. These reasons are superficial, and they can’t take away the feelings of fear and anger and hurt. I wasted hours of my life trying to track down the plagiarized review, trying to find ways to contact the plagiarizer, trying to figure out what was going on with my review and the other bloggers’ reviews. I will never get this time back.

So if plagiarizing ever seems like a good option to you, remember that the work you are stealing belongs to real people and that you’re “helping” yourself only by hurting them.

UPDATE: The reviewer replied to my email assuring me she means to take down any lingering reviews soon.  She explained she liked my review and thought by copying it she might eventually be able to review in a similar style on her own.  While I’m glad her response was calm and polite, I can’t help but feel skeptical, knowing she kept plagiarized reviews even after she had initially been confronted by other bloggers.  I think her suggestion she might delete her entire Goodreads account stems mostly from shame and the knowledge major bloggers have been spreading the word about just how far her plagiarism reached.  I worry that, if major bloggers and large numbers of bloggers were not “behind me” in this situation, I would receive much less closure.  Being plagiarized can be scary particularly for bloggers who don’t know if the weight of the blogging community will be behind them.  While on one hand I shy away from vigilante type justice and mass shaming of “bad bloggers,” I also worry that this can be the most effective way to deal with plagiarizers who may otherwise feel themselves immune from consequences.

UDPATE 2 (9/5/15): The reviewer has a new blog and continues to plagiarize, though she seems to have moved on to paraphrasing more heavily so it’s less recognizable.  Nonetheless, there are still whole sentences in her reviews clearly lifted from other bloggers’ work. For this reason, I have decided to name her.  After sending apology emails to numerous bloggers and taking down her first blog, she has demonstrated she actually has no remorse and no respect for intellectual property.  I feel readers, bloggers, authors, and publishers deserve to know she is a serial plagiarist before deciding whether to work with her.  Her name is Samantha Reed, currently blogging at Reed’s Reads and Review, formerly Reeds Reviews.  This post at Cuddlebuggery should give some more background, as it seems only fair to offer evidence of her plagiarism if I’m going to accuse her of it.  Measures are being taken to report her newest plagiarized reviews.

Briana

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27 thoughts on “How It Feels to Be Plagiarized

  1. jubilare says:

    I am so sorry to hear that this has happened to you… it’s a theft and a violation.

    The weakness of the argument, I think, shows that the plagiarizer has skewed priorities. She must have a great void in her life if the pressure to post reviews seems, to her, a reason to steal. Though I, too, wish there was a better answer than that. Maybe there is, and she simply isn’t forthcoming. If that’s the case, though, then it is even more worrying that she thinks her excuse a good one. I hope, at least, she has learned a moral lesson through this.

    What you and Krysta do here is wonderful. I am sorry that someone treated it in such a way.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Thank you! Apparently this was all discovered four days ago, and I hadn’t been online and missed it all, so I think half my panic was trying to catch up and figure out what was going on. It turns out that she “updated” the review she stole from me yesterday, after others had confronted her about plagiarism, so it looks as if she knew it was plagiarized and was trying to hide it by moving some more words around. She missed the opportunity to take it down before I even noticed it existed, so somehow I doubt she’s particularly sorry.

      Someone mentioned she hopes to be an editor, so I wonder how much of this was pressure to build a name for herself in order to beef up her resume and start making a name for herself in the industry. She also seemed to be using her full name, so I think she’s struggling now with the issue that a Google search for her is going to reveal this whole mess. So she has to rebuild credibility in the blogosphere with the same name, instead of staring over anonymously with entirely new usernames and accounts, which maybe explains her actions in trying to cover up the plagiarism by “editing” some of the stolen reviews. In a way, I guess it’s rather sad that this could be a black mark on her Google presence forever and negatively impact career prospects for her, when it gained her very little in the short term.

      Liked by 1 person

      • jubilare says:

        Alas.

        *sighs* if she was hoping to get into that business, she should, especially, have known better. To quote a Hobbit, “shortcuts make for long delays.” 😉

        Like

    • Briana says:

      Thank you!

      Most of her Internet presence seems to be gone, either through self-removal or actions taken by the host sites after complaints of her widespread plagiarism, so hopefully this is resolved.

      Like

  2. A Well Read Woman says:

    I’ve had this happen to me also, and it was pointed out to me by the author of the book I reviewed. I wish you would name names… lol 🙂 I’m dying to know if it’s the same woman!

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Cuddlebuggery wrote a whole big post on it you can check out. I didn’t mention the name because I wanted this to be more about the issue of plagiarism than pointing fingers, but her name is spread all over the blogosphere now so it’s not as if my silence is doing much to protect her. She’s deleted her Goodreads account now, too, anyway so hopefully she won’t be doing more plagiarizing any time soon.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      Love it. 😀

      In universities, one of the most common reasons students give for plagiarizing is that they’ve done it before and gotten away with it. But you will eventually get caught, and the consequences won’t be pretty.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Maryam Dinzly says:

    I am sorry to hear that this happened to you. Personally, I feel enraged too, even though I really did not check to see if she did the same to my review (I honestly didn’t want to know), but I was angry because I think that is similar to stealing. Some people put their hard work into those reviews, and someone else comes along and copy-paste it. That’s disgusting. My main point is: Don’t be a book blogger/reviewer if you can’t have thoughts of your own. Just read the book and keep it to yourself. Seesh.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      It’s actually strange for me to think how close I came to not knowing it she had stolen at least one of my mind. I feel there’s a road of paranoia just waiting here–how many other people could have plagiarized something without the author ever finding out?

      Yes, I think some people don’t see the connection between plagiarism and stealing just because intellectual property isn’t tangible. One of my friends is a teacher and one of her students tried to explain, for example, that stealing someone’s candy is worse than copying someone’s test answers because, after both, the other kid would have no candy but they would still have their own test answers. This was a sixth grader, but I guess even adults have a similar mentality. But you can tell they know something is wrong about plagiarism based on the way they try to hide it.

      I feel a bit bad for this particular plagiarist because she’s a college student. If any future employers Google her and find out about this, she’s in trouble. It would be very easy to start wondering if she also plagiarized any of her academic work because she “felt pressured by deadlines” and was worried “her writing wasn’t as good as other people’s.” It’s a mess all around for her now.

      Like

    • Briana says:

      Thanks for your concern! 🙂

      She seems to have deleted most of her online book presence, so hopefully this situation is over for the blogosphere. She seems to have used her real name on her accounts, though, so I worry she’s going to feel the consequences much further down the road than she had anticipated. Plagiarism just doesn’t pay.

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  4. wolfshowl says:

    Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened to you! I think what weirds me out the most about being plagiarized is how I feel like they’re trying to steal my identity/my life. If that makes sense. Like I put a lot of myself into my reviews (and my writing in general) and seeing someone else claim that as their own makes me feel like they’re also claiming my experiences and my life.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      Yes! I think that was the ickiest part. It was so weird to see my words coming out of someone else’s mouth, so to speak. Like watching someone pretend to be me or something. It was really disconcerting, and it was a part of being plagiarized I’d never really thought about before.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Lisa says:

    That’s such a shame. Thank you for sharing your experience! The reasons she gave seem so weak. I mean, most of us are blogging for the pleasure it gives us, not to gain any sort of material profit, so who cares about schedules and word counts? She sounds very inexperienced and naive, but unfortunately, this is the kind of think that may come back to haunt her.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      They’re actually common reasons students will give for academic plagiarism, but at least I can almost, kind of, sort of see why someone might think they would benefit from cheating in order to maintain their GPA for a scholarship or something like that. But blogging has no hard deadlines, it has no rules, and it gives no “rewards” for plagiarism. You’re completely right that this is just going to come back to haunt her in the future without having benefited her in any way at all.

      Like

  6. DoingDewey says:

    How awful! This sounds like a terrible, frustrating experience. Like you, I don’t even understand the benefit someone would derive from doing this. I’m sorry to hear you had to deal with this situation and admire your how calmly you’ve handled sharing your experience.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I definitely wasn’t calm when I first found out! I was actually angrier and more disturbed than I would have expected to be. I never would have thought being plagiarized would feel so personal. It’s even weirder think that it isn’t. I’m 90% certain the girl just lifted my review because it’s one she saw randomly on Goodreads, and she has no sense at all of who I am as a blogger or person.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Lianne @ eclectictales.com says:

    I’m sorry that you had to deal with such an awful experience 😦 I don’t understand what could prompt a person to resort to taking other people’s work and promoting it as their own, especially in blogging where there’s not much pressure =/

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I haven’t been able to figure this out either, especially for someone who claimed it was because she was under pressure from schoolwork but apparently began her blog in the summer. She also has a new blog, where she continues to plagiarize, so this isn’t over, as we all thought it was.

      Like

        • Briana says:

          There were just…SO MANY people she plagiarized. We probably haven’t even found them all. I really want her to talk to someone like a writing tutor because, in some sense, I wouldn’t blame her for feeling “bullied” by us. Even though we’re right and she deserves our criticism, I can’t imagine what it feels like having dozens of people tweeting at you that you’re wrong. But she says she’s going to ask her roommate for a second opinion about whether she plagiarized, and I have no idea how unbiased her roommate will be. If she’s a friend, she may feel inclined to defend her against all the “mean” people online. But what she really needs is someone “official” to tell her paraphrasing isn’t enough and then work with her to find ways she can improve her writing and express her original ideas.

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  8. Small Review says:

    I’m really sorry this happened to you. It’s an awful feeling to be plagiarized.

    Several years ago a blogger I liked and who frequently commented on my blog plagiarized one of my discussion posts where I expressed my opinion on the types of books I like. She directly copied my words and then occasionally substituted a word with a synonym. The sentence structure, and most of the words, were kept exactly as I wrote them.

    I didn’t know what to do, so I shared the evidence with a Big Blogger at the time. She basically told me to let it go. So, I did. I didn’t feel comfortable letting it go, but I don’t like confrontation and now I would have two confrontations on my hands if I chose to move forward (confronting the plagiarist and the Big Blogger, and all that BB’s readers, potentially).

    I wrote a post later on about how it feels to be plagiarized, and amusingly enough the person who plagiarized me commented on that post! Not admitting she plagiarized me, but basically saying how awful that must feel and how she’s lucky not to have had someone plagiarize her and to have to go through that.

    The whole thing was bizarre and I’m not sure if she honestly didn’t realize how wrong she was (she was in high school at the time). I know she did it at least in part because she does like my blog and what I had written really resonated with her. That doesn’t make it right at all though.

    I don’t know, I just felt and continue to feel so betrayed by the situation. Betrayed by the blogger who acted like a friend and betrayed by the Big Blogger for telling me to let it go. It’s too late to do anything about it now and I’m so drama adverse that I’m not sure I would have done anything differently. I just wish I was never put in that situation.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      It’s very surprising, and saddening, just how many bloggers end up being plagiarized by other bloggers they considered friends. In this case, I have the “benefit” of having never heard of this blogger before. I’m pretty sure she also had no idea who I am, and just lifted my review because she saw it on Goodreads. So while I’m frustrated with the whole situation, I at least don’t have the awful experience of betrayal that so many other bloggers have had.

      I do think the blogging community is becoming more open to reporting plagiarism, but I also think there still is a sense that, if you’ve been plagiarized, it’s somehow better if you have a Big Blogger supporting you. I’m glad that Cuddlebuggery took a leading role in this situation, but it’s also a bit sad that we still do “need” Big Bloggers to make complaints against plagiarism legitimate, or maybe just noticeable. If a small blogger, alone, complains about plagiarism, who is even going to hear about it?

      Which leads me to my final frustration: There seems so little we can do to stop plagiarism. This girl had her Goodreads account shut down and felt “harassed” enough to close her blog and Twitter account herself. About two days later, she had a new blog, new Goodreads, and new Twitter–with basically the same username. She continues to plagiarize. There’s this appalling sense that she knows she can plagiarize all she wants and get away with it. It seems I can only sit around and hope she gets caught plagiarizing something “more important” like a college essay, so she’ll actually face some type of sanction.

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  9. Trisha says:

    Great post! I’m new to book-blogging (roughly 3 weeks now), and am just starting to witness the seedy underbelly of the blogosphere. It’s really sad that people find the need to plagiarize, especially in a medium like this, where 80% of bloggers aren’t getting any real compensation, monetarily or otherwise, other than the satisfaction of getting THEIR OWN opinions out there…It just really doesn’t make any sense to me.

    Like

    • Briana says:

      I don’t understand the impetus either. People always give reasons like not having enough time to blog or wanting ARCs or something, but the reasons always seem flimsy. The potential payoff isn’t really worth it, considering the horrible consequences once you’re caught. This isn’t like cheating to get a $50,000 scholarship or something, which, while unethical, is a bit more understandable.

      Liked by 1 person

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